What happens if someone else caused a spinal cord injury?
Spinal cord injuries are serious and debilitating injuries that affect the central nervous system, the messenger between the brain and the rest of the body. A spinal cord injury impacts motor control, sensation, and may cause total or partial paralysis. Such injuries may result from the intentional behavior of others or from a variety of accidents such as automobile accidents or improperly performed medical procedures.
A spinal cord injury can be devastating and dramatically change the quality of life. When a spinal cord injury occurs as a result of someone else’s behavior, either intentional or accidental, it is important to weigh your options for seeking compensation for your harm. At Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A., our attorneys are experts in personal injury lawsuits and have a track record of recovering in the case of a devastating injury. Our attorneys will meet with you to evaluate your case and assist you in recovering for your injuries from those responsible.
How can you recover damages for a spinal cord injury?
If another person’s actions caused an injury to your spinal cord, you may have a legal claim against that person. Florida law allows injured parties to recover for intentional and accidental harm through civil lawsuits. Many cases settle out of court without the involvement of a judge or jury but you may still need to file a lawsuit to force a settlement.
Lawsuits for harmful actions are separated into two categories: actions that are intentionally harmful and actions that are accidentally or negligently harmful.
Intentional harm is an action that is done for the purpose of causing harm. Examples include punching someone, hitting someone with an object such as a baseball bat, or shooting someone with a gun. Florida law recognizes intentional harm as a tort called battery. A tort is a wrongful act that leads to civil liability. Battery is intentionally causing harm to another through contact with that person. If battery causes you spinal cord damage, you can recover for your injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, and a negative impact on the quality of life.
Accidental harms are the result of another person’s negligence, or another person’s failure to act reasonably under the circumstances, causing harm or injury. Accidental harms caused by negligence include car accidents, slip and fall cases, sporting injuries, and medical malpractice. If you suffer a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you can also recover damages from that person. To recover, you must show the other person owed you a duty to act reasonably safely toward you, the person failed to live up to that duty, the person’s failure actually caused your injury, and you suffered quantifiable harm as a result.
When considering Florida’s law on accidental injuries or negligence, it is important to know that Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that if a person is at all responsible for his or her own injuries, damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault falling on the plaintiff. For example, if an accident might have been avoided but for a plaintiff’s failure to yield to a traffic signal, damages may be reduced by a percentage amount appropriately corresponding to the plaintiff’s level of fault.
Examples of contributory negligence include:
- Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
- Failure to follow traffic laws
- Failure to take appropriate precautions when playing a sport
- Failure to inform a medical provider of necessary medical history
How are damages determined?
In civil cases, responsibility for damages is determined by the amount it will take to make one whole again. In many cases, this includes payment of medical bills. In other more serious cases in which the injured party can never be made whole again, courts allow for monetary awards to compensate for this loss as well. If a party is injured to the point that he or she may never maintain the same quality of life again, a calculation of a damage amount may include a number of factors, such as the loss of enjoyment of life or loss of earning potential.
The Role of Insurance Companies in Spinal Cord Injury Cases
The Other Party’s Insurance
While insurance companies rarely cover intentional acts, in accidental cases you may be able to recover from the negligent party’s insurance company. For example, if a spinal cord injury results from an automobile accident, the negligent driver’s automobile insurance company will likely step in to defend the driver and payout any claims against the driver.
As a general rule, insurance companies want to pay as little as possible for the claims filed against their customers. Most insurance companies try to settle claims out of court. While settling out of court may be faster, many times the recovery does not take all of your damages into account. Unlike other cases, the damages from a spinal cord injury can be lifelong and result in unknowable medical bills and lifelong care. Once a case is settled and you have accepted funds you may never be able to recover beyond that settlement. For this reason, it is important that you consult with an attorney to explore all your legal rights prior to accepting any insurance settlement.
There may be several situations in which any insurance coverage you have will assist in the payment of medical bills and living expenses. For example, your own health insurance coverage may cover some of your medical bills.
If your spinal cord injury is a result of a vehicular accident, your automobile insurance policy may cover a portion of the costs. This often occurs in cases in which the party at fault is uninsured.
Finally, many employers provide disability insurance that can assist in situations where you are unable to work because of a temporary or permanent disability.
It is important to remember that anytime you accept an insurance company’s settlement of claims, even with your own insurance company, you could be signing away your rights. Therefore, you should always seek legal guidance before accepting an insurance settlement.
If You Suffered a Spinal Cord Injury, Contact a Pensacola Personal Injury Attorney
Spinal cord injuries can be permanent and life-altering. Many times a spinal cord injury can cause temporary or permanent disability and leave you with no option to provide for your family. If you suffered a spinal cord injury that was caused by someone else’s actions you may be able to recover for damages. At Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A., our attorneys experienced in many types of personal injury lawsuits can help you to quantify your damages and recover for them. Reach out to Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. and get the experience of a trial-tested attorney on your side.